It may be tempting to think you could be the next Faker or Scarlett. You may have a special aptitude playing online or at home against friends that makes you think that a career in esports is the way to go.
In truth, the modern esports industry is as tough a place to prove yourself as any professional sporting arena. The reason Scarlett and Faker are so revered by their contemporaries is that they have proven, time and time again, that they are the best of the best. Still, how did they reach this point?
Their journey to the top of esports can be broken down into seven steps. It must be said though that good fortune, unflinching dedication, and supreme skill are all at work here.
The good news for you is that if you harbour an interest in becoming a top esports player and you are reading this article, you are already taking your first steps.
Step 1 – Learn about the esports industry
It is fundamental you learn about the industry and the games that are dominating esports at the moment. After all, there is little point in becoming a first-class exponent of a particular game if the esports industry has no interest or following for that game.
Take a look at the most popular games in esports. The real behemoths include League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and StarCraft II. Other notable titles are FIFA, Call of Duty, and Overwatch as well as a slew of emerging games like PUBG and Fortnite.
Know the titles. Know their tournaments. Learn how you can watch the pros compete in places like Twitch.TV.
The industry is growing rapidly. That means topflight skill in one of these games may not be the only path into esports. There are plentiful opportunities to get your foot in the door via a number of roles. Maybe you’re more suited to managing a team, organising tournaments, or acting as an esports caster or writer. It may not be the glamorous gaming career you hoped for initially, but at least you will be involved in something you love.
However, if you are adamant that your only route into esports is as a gamer, then once you have a firm grasp of the esports industry, then it’s time to move on.
Step 2 – Decide on your esport
Your research about the industry and perhaps your prior experience playing certain games will probably mean you favour trying your chances in one particular esport.
It is tempting to think, “Well, I’ll play most of them and see what I am best at.” But in truth, it is remarkably difficult to reach the professional ranks playing just one esport. The chances of you being able to reach that level in multiple, each with different physical, mental and strategic demands, are almost nil. By splitting your time between games, you are unlikely to be able to invest the time required to hone your skills.
You also need to be fully aware of your limitations as a player when you make this choice. You may prefer to play FIFA, but if you consistently lose games, this route is likely not for you. If you’re aces at Call of Duty, you should be playing that. This doesn’t mean you should pick one game and play it exclusively. In the early stages, you should definitely try different games and see which ones pique your interest and suit your skillset.
Step 3 – Ensure you have the correct equipment
It is also worth thinking about the gear needed for your chosen title. Games like Call of Duty, FIFA, and Madden tend to be renewed each year with a latest version. You’ll need to buy that along with the console to play it.
However, games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and CS:GO are played, at the highest levels, on specific gaming PCs. Some of these can be very expensive and are very different from your standard desktop.
It is here that you encounter your first real financial decision. You can use your standard desktop PC to play many games and then upgrade this PC to improve, say, its memory or graphics card. However, most top gamers who use computers opt for a dedicated gaming PC.
Your budget will determine what you can afford and upgrade when you can or must. Grow your skills on what’s in front of you for now. Only a shoddy carpenter blames his equipment.
Step 4 – Hone your skills
This is where things get massively difficult. And it’s almost comical to advise someone who wants to be in the NBA to practice his jump shot a bit.
But I’ll say it: now it’s time to play and improve your skills in the game of your choice. Reaching elite status means investing a huge amount of time and dedication. Esports professionals will regularly spend eight hours a day or more training. They will use a variety of different strategies and test out countless in-game scenarios.
As an amateur trying to break into their ranks, you are going to have to find time to work as hard, if not harder to improve your skills. How quickly this can happen for you depends on a number of factors, some of which you cannot control (such as your innate ability). What you can control is how long you put into practicing each day, week, and month.
Step 5 – Get yourself noticed
So far, the majority of your gaming will have taken place online in casual events. However, if you are bossing these events, then it is time to expand your horizons. Look for local or national esports tournaments. Get to the venue and sign up to play.
Some games, particularly the likes of FIFA, Madden, and Call of Duty, offer players the chance to play in online tournaments en route to qualifying for an offline tournament.
It is only by playing in these organised, sponsored, and higher-profile events that your skills will get you noticed. Of course, you will find that the level of competition grows tougher. But if you can start to perform well on these stages, then your name will soon become noticed in your chosen esport. That’s when things could really start to happen.
Step 6 – Sign on the dotted line
Win a big tournament or perform superbly well at a national event and you will really pick up momentum. It is at this point that a team may well get in touch and ask whether you would be interested in a contract.
Other ways to prove yourself to teams are to compete in development leagues and tournaments, such as the ones being run for the new Overwatch League. These tournaments allow teams looking to hire talented players to view potential signees in a competitive environment. Impress in these events, and a team could sign you up. Again, be aware we are talking about fierce, fierce competition here.
At this point you can congratulate yourself. You have become a professional esports player and realised your dream of turning pro. So what’s left? More mountains to climb.
Step 7 – Dominate!
Now you are an esports pro. You have the time to dedicate to your craft. Now practice even harder to climb the rankings in your chosen esport.
Improving to this elite level, one more time now, requires unbelievable commitment. But if trying to be the absolute best isn’t motivation enough, maybe not losing your ground will be. Just because you’re on the mountain now doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of amateurs trying to knock you off. Climb or be replaced.
Only the very few will reach this level, and fewer still will go on to dominate their chosen esports. But who knows: maybe one day teenagers will look at the top gamers and want to be the next … you.